Brevity may be the soul of wit, as Polonius said in Hamlet, but I have yet to manage it.  Still, I’m going to try, since it’s frustratingly difficult to find time to blog these days.

So let’s cut to the chase.

Francis Calcraft Turner's Bachelor's Hall:  Capping on Hounds, oil on canvas, c. 1835.

Francis Calcraft Turner’s Bachelor’s Hall: Capping on Hounds, oil on canvas, c. 1835.

How do you correct your horse’s mistakes?

First, it’s important to ask yourself why your horse is making a mistake.  Is he just learning?  Does a physical problem (lack of fitness, pain, etc.) keep him from being able to do what you’re asking?  Do you expect too much too soon? Is your horse a loser?  A jerk?  Satan?  Or…is it all your fault?

I hate to say it (well, actually that’s not true and as you can see, I’m really having trouble with this brevity thing) but chances are it is all your fault. Don’t despair.  I’m here to help.

My first advice is to stop thinking about your horse making mistakes, don’t blame him or her, and start thinking about how you can help.

When your horse makes a mistake, you’ve ruled out a physical problem and your horse is not a rogue (a term I don’t apply lightly), then your horse’s mistake is one of two things:

1.  Your horse is just confused

2.  Your horse is learning and you’re impatient.

If it’s #1, remember that it’s your job to make things clear.  See the look on the horse’s face in the painting above?  That’s how your horse probably feels when he just doesn’t understand and you think he’s made a mistake.

If it’s #2, reframe the conversation.  Think of yourself as a leader rather than a critic.  Inspire your horse, praise your horse, think about how to help your horse and stop blaming.

The most important thing to remember when your horse makes mistakes is that, in all likelihood, your horse’s mistakes are your mistakes.  Correct yourself, and your horse will no longer make mistakes. Check your position.  Refine your aids.  Make sure that you release your aids once given.  And don’t forget to fix your impatience, if that’s part of the problem.

Rather than thinking about what your horse is doing wrong and how to get him to do the right thing next time, or even worse, thinking that your horse is stupid or stubborn or a big baby or lacking talent or devious, think about this:

how can i help you

When you correct your horse’s mistakes with this in mind, I guarantee that everything will go better.  You’ll be more successful and so will your horse. And you’ll both be much happier.

One more thing (no matter how much I admire brevity, it eludes me).  It’s just as easy for us to get stuck and not progress as it is for our horses.  So next time your horse makes a mistake, here’s something to think about:

Beginning riders correct a horse’s mistake after it happens, intermediate riders correct a horse’s mistake as soon as it happens, and advanced riders prevent the mistake from happening in the first place.

Changing the way you think is sometimes all it takes to fix your horse’s mistakes.  Let me know if it helps you and helps your horse.